Hinch, Roberts share tight bond, similar styles

World Series skippers friends since days with Padres

October 23rd, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- How do close friends handle things when they find themselves managing against one another in the Fall Classic? Funny you should ask.

"Radio silence," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.


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"Well, we're not friends this week," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We're mortal enemies."

Yeah, no.

Nothing that happens in this Astros-Dodgers World Series presented by YouTubeTV will shake the bond between Roberts and Hinch and their families.

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But the friendship is an interesting sidebar: to have these two buddies looking across the diamond at one another in a World Series.

After all the miles they've traveled, the thing every person in baseball dreams of has come to pass.

When Hinch and Roberts met for breakfast in San Diego last July, their teams were both in first place, and suddenly, the whole thing didn't seem so farfetched.

"We kind of rooted each other on that we would meet each other in October and fight it out for the World Series," Hinch said. "Now we've got to be careful what we wish for. We have to go up against each other's teams."

Hinch and Roberts became friends in 2011 when both worked for the Padres, Roberts as a coach, Hinch an assistant general manager.

They found an immediate bond in both having played in the Pac-12, Hinch at Stanford, Roberts at UCLA.

And their other mutual love was baseball.

"We just kind of hit it off," Roberts said, "and obviously we were contemporaries, and had mutual friends, and just loved talking about the game.

"And so to be managing against him now in this situation, it's really surreal. I think after we advanced, he reached out to me. And then after they advanced, I reached out to him."

Roberts and Hinch shared a brief hug during Monday's workouts at Dodger Stadium, but that was it. No more supportive texts for the next few days while each takes care of business.

Here's the interesting part about their managerial styles. They are similar in that their strengths are building relationships with players.

In baseball's information age -- and both teams are at the forefront -- nothing will ever diminish the importance of a manager being able to lead a team and get a constant, consistent effort.

"He's one of the most caring people I've ever been around," Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor said of Roberts. "Everything about him is 100 percent genuine, and you can feel that when you talk to him.

"I think that keeps everything positive. Everyone is optimistic about that day's game and we understand we're one tight-knit family. Everybody's going to be supportive of everyone else."

Which is pretty much what the Astros say about their manager.

"It's just how approachable A.J. is," Houston outfielder said. "We've talked about everything, whether it's playing time or how to handle a certain thing in the clubhouse. It's so much fun. I feel it's been a lucky thing for me to be here."

Roberts, 45, is two years older than Hinch. Roberts played 10 seasons for six teams and is an icon in Boston, where his stolen base in Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series sparked the turnaround that led to the city's first World Series championship in 86 years.


Hinch played seven seasons for four teams and got a warmup managing gig with the D-backs in parts of 2009 and '10. He's in his third season with the Astros while Roberts is finishing up his second season -- his first managerial gig -- with the Dodgers.

"I love the man," Hinch said. "He's an excellent example of what leadership should be about. I have a lot of respect for how he connects well with players and how he's leading his team. And I'm really happy and proud that we're in this together.

"I think we both have unique backgrounds. And we find ourselves in the center stage of the World Series. It shows you that anything's possible, and none of us can really be so good at being experts that we're going to predict anything."

Both Hinch and Roberts are still learning, both still curious about how to improve. Astros pitching coach Brent Strom said Hinch will sometimes approach him after a tough loss and ask, "What did I do wrong?"

But what both do well is lead men, maintain their composure and know their players have their best interests in mind. Many factors contribute to a clubhouse culture, but the manager is a huge part of that.

"I think just [Roberts'] overall attitude kind of carries out throughout the clubhouse," said , the Dodgers' Game 1 starter. "I think he is such an enthusiastic guy, positive guy, which you can't fake that over a six-month season, 162 games. And for him to have that positivity throughout the year, it's good. It rubs off on guys. On the dog days, it helps guys know that he has their backs."

It'll be interesting to watch Hinch and Roberts shake hands at home plate before Game 1 on Tuesday. That hug will have some history, and that hug will represent what the two men have come to mean to one another.

"I think Dave, as a coach first, was really good at connecting players and connecting with players and finding the competitive advantage," Hinch said. "He has the will to win. Probably gets maybe wrongfully accused of being too nice of a guy to everybody. He's got an inner burn to compete. I loved that when we were together and I'm sure I'll see it firsthand this week.

"It's an incredible journey to get to this place, no matter what. Obviously his is a special rise to the top on one of the best teams in baseball. Like I said, I've got great respect for him. More so on how he goes about it, not necessarily what he's doing."